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HomeAsia-PacificSingapore climbs up the 2018 Henley Passport Index; ranked 2nd globally

Singapore climbs up the 2018 Henley Passport Index; ranked 2nd globally

With its citizens enjoying visa-free access to 176 countries in total, the Lion City, as it is affectionately known, is the highest ranking Asian country on the index.

Singapore has moved up two places to be 2nd place on the 2018 Henley Passport Index. With its citizens enjoying visa-free access to 176 countries in total, the Lion City, as it is affectionately known, is the highest ranking Asian country on the index. Ranked in 3rd place are Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Japan, Norway, Sweden, and the UK. Germany holds on to 1st place for the 5th year running in the 2018 edition of the index — previously known as the Henley & Partners Visa Restrictions Index.

Ranking jointly 4th on the index, Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Spain all provide visa-free access to 174 countries. Malaysia ranks in 12th place, and is the second highest ranking country in Southeast Asia, offering visa-free travel to 166 countries. Thailand meanwhile, ranks in 64th place with visa-free access to 73 countries. Indonesia and the Philippines share the 72nd spot with three other countries on the index, allowing its passport holders visa-free travel to 63 countries.

Dominic Volek, Managing Partner of Henley & Partners Singapore and Head Southeast Asia, says the need for visa-free access to global markets, whether it be for business or leisure, is more important than ever before. “Two trends were clear in 2017; certain countries enjoyed accelerated economic growth while others witnessed political fragmentation, nervous markets and vulnerable economies. Access, connectivity and shared prosperity are all factors driving the need for greater travel freedom,” he says.

The Henley Passport Index is widely acknowledged as the original and most authoritative passport index, with historical independent data spanning 13 years. The global ranking is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which maintains the world’s largest and most definitive database of travel information, and enhanced by extensive in-house research.

The US is among the countries holding 5th place on the 2018 edition of the index, improving its visa-free score from 172 in 2017 to 173 in 2018. The Russian Federation, meanwhile climbed three places to be 48th and 2nd place among the Commonwealth of Independent States, with the top regional spot now held by the Ukraine.

The biggest movers in this year’s index were Georgia and the Ukraine, which completed the visa-liberalization process with the European Union (EU) in 2017 and gained access to 30 and 32 new countries, respectively. Georgia was the highest individual mover, climbing 15 places, while the Ukraine ascended 14 ranks. China, Sierra Leone, Guinea, the Dominican Republic, and Indonesia also performed strongly this year, each gaining seven or more places compared to 2017.

On the other end of the spectrum, 14 countries — Cyprus, Trinidad and Tobago, Sweden, Spain, Greece, Lithuania, Taiwan, Iran, Bangladesh, Nepal, Yemen, Antigua and Barbuda, North Korea and Syria — fared equally poorly in terms of downward movement on the index, all losing one place year-on-year. New Zealand descended the most but fell by only two places.

Of the 199 countries featured on the index, 143 improved their rank over the past year and 41 countries maintained their position. In terms of visa-free access, only seven countries saw their level of access reduced over the past year: Azerbaijan, Algeria, New Zealand, Antigua and Barbuda, Laos, North Korea, and Syria all lost visa-free access to a single country. By contrast, 18 countries maintained their level of access year-on-year, and the remainder of countries (174 in total) saw an improvement in their level of access compared to 2017.

Countries in Southeast Asia have remained stable on the 2018 Henley Passport Index. Indonesia was the highest individual climber in the region, rising the ranks by seven positions over the past year. Thailand and the Philippines, meanwhile, each climbed three positions on the index. Other countries that improved their ranks include Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Timor-Leste and Myanmar. Brunei and Laos maintained their position compared to 2017.

North Asian countries also performed well on the 2018 Henley Passport Index, with both Japan and South Korea retaining their positions in the top 10. With visa-free access to 175 and 173 countries, the Japanese passport moved up two places to rank 3rd globally (a position shared by eight other passports). South Korea also moved up by two places to occupy 5th place, offering its citizens visa-free access to 173 countries. China has showed the most growth in the region over the past year, moving up by 10 places to 75th place on the global ranking.

We live in a challenging economy today. Looking at factors such as the US travel ban, isolationist and protectionist practices, it is evident that that seamless global mobility will continue to face impediments that need to be bridged,” says Volek. “From a macroeconomic perspective, global mobility and migration will always make sense. However, there continues to be challenges around this hot-button issue that needs to be effectively addressed. Our findings reflect that with the rise in opportunities in today’s world economy, global mobility, sitting on the cross-roads of regulation and trade, will continue to thrive.”

Investment migration fast becoming the quickest route to improved mobility
More and more governments are embracing citizenship-by-investment programs as a means of stimulating economic development and growth, and an increased number of wealthy and talented individuals are looking to diversify their citizenship portfolios to give themselves and their families greater international opportunity, travel freedom, stability, and security.

Volek points out that the countries that offer the most credible citizenship-by-investment programs in the world consistently perform strongly on the Henley Passport Index. “Malta offers the top-ranked investment migration program globally, and the country also scores very highly on the index, holding the world’s 9th most powerful passport and offering visa-free access to 169 countries including the US. In 4th place, Austria provides access to a total of 174 countries. Cyprus in 17th place, another highly sought-after destination offers visa-free access to 159 countries,” he says. Caribbean countries offering citizenship-by-investment programs have likewise performed well on this year’s index.

Alternative citizenship is considered a sound portfolio diversification and investment strategy for individuals; insulating them to a greater degree from risks and shortcomings. The Henley Passport Index is relevant to anyone seeking to strengthen their level of access, as well as to governments trying to understand their passport offering in a global context,” concludes Volek.   

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